How The Dragon Prince’s creators retooled the show’s animation


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Netflix’s animated series The Dragon Prince, co-created by Avatar: The Last Airbender head writer Aaron Ehasz and Uncharted series game developer and director Justin Richmond, just dropped its second season, and it’s a powerful step forward for the fantasy series. I recently spoke at length to Ehasz and Richmond about the stylistic changes and narrative leaps forward the show took in season 2.

In part one of this interview, Ehasz and Richmond discussed some of the major story beats from season 2, including how they balanced their villains to make them so appealing, what effects dark magic has on its users, and why season 2 has so many long, wordless sequences as part of the storytelling process. In part two, they discuss the show’s…

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One of Captain Marvel’s post-credits scenes is great news for Avengers: Endgame


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Spoilers ahead for Captain Marvel’s mid-credits and post-credits scenes, for Avengers: Infinity War, and for one big gag in Captain Marvel itself.

Back in 2008, when Nick Fury arrived at Tony Stark’s house to invite him to join the Avengers Initiative after the credits rolled, the sequence felt like most post-credit scenes did back then — a little in-joke for dedicated viewers who cared enough to sit all the way through the credits, instead of bolting for the doors the moment the action stopped. But over the past decade, Marvel’s post-credits scenes have become an institution. Occasionally, they’re just visual gags and callbacks to previous story elements, like Ant-Man and the Wasp’s 20-second view of Ant-Man’s abandoned house, with a…

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Arrested Development will continue on Netflix on March 15th


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Netflix today revealed that Arrested Development, Mitchell Hurwitz’s sitcom about an extended family of comically terrible people, will continue on March 15th. It’s the first announcement confirming the release date for the second half of the show’s fifth season. Episodes 1–8 of season 5 were released simultaneously on the service on May 29th, 2018, so it’s been a long wait for the show to continue. Overall reactions to Netflix’s revival of the show have been mixed to negative, and controversies centering on ensemble member Jeffrey Tambor dogged the show’s 2018 release. That may help explain the long delay, if Netflix has been waiting for cultural tensions to ease somewhat before continuing the season.

Arrested Development originally…

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The first Frozen 2 trailer looks grim as hell


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Today, Disney released the first trailer for Frozen 2, the sequel to 2013’s animated musical adventure Frozen. Directors Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee, returning from the first film, have said virtually nothing so far about the plot of the new film. And the initial trailer doesn’t fill in any gaps. It’s a wordless collection of scenes of the characters grimly striving at various unclear tasks. In particular, it looks like Queen Elsa (voiced by Idina Menzel) is trying to escape a barren island by running across the churning ocean, while her sister Anna (Kristen Bell) and their friend Kristoff (Jonathan Groff) charge into their own grave-looking crisis situations. The overall tone is grim and serious, with comic-relief snowman Olaf (Josh…

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Pixar’s new YouTube short plays like a companion piece to Wall-E


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When Pixar Animation Studios first introduced the SparkShorts series in January, the studio explained that the short films came from a program of “indie filmmaking inside of Pixar.” Creators are given six months and a small budget to make their own unique projects. The latest of those shorts, Smash and Grab, just debuted on YouTube, and it may seem a bit familiar to longtime Pixar fans — it features robots with a minor resemblance to the protagonist of Pixar’s Wall-E, from the head-cocked expressions and grabby gimbaled hands to the expressive mechanically irising eyes. Like Wall-E, these robots are in a repetitive, thankless job, but have seen the possibility of something more in life.

In an accompanying one-minute behind-the-scenes…

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Hulu, Marvel greenlight four connected animated series, including Howard the Duck


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Marvel Studios and its parent company Disney have been pulling back on their association with Netflix, ahead of the launch of Disney’s own streaming service. As Netflix loses its licenses to stream Disney films, and cancels its interconnected Marvel shows (so far: Luke Cage, Iron Fist, and Daredevil, with The Punisher and Jessica Jones still awaiting word), Marvel is apparently forging a stronger connection with Hulu. News came out of the Television Critics Association uprights today that Marvel and Hulu will be partnering on four animated Marvel shows: MODOK, Hit-Monkey, Tigra & Dazzler, and Howard the Duck. The plan apparently calls for all four series to cross over in a special called The Offenders, much as Netflix’s Marvel shows…

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2019 Grammys: the complete list of winners


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Does the world need the Grammy awards? Not according to Grammy-winner Drake, who the Recording Academy cut off during his spotlight moment at the 2019 awards, after he suggested the Grammys don’t matter as much as viral popularity. After winning Best Rap Song for “God’s Plan,” Drake used his winner’s speech to encourage musicians to work on their craft regardless of recognition. “All my peers that make music from their heart, that do things pure and tell the truth, I wanna let you know we’re playing an opinion-based sport, not a factual-based sport,” he said. “So it’s not the NBA, where at the end of the year, you’re holding a trophy because you made the right decisions or won the games.”

“The point is, you’ve already won if you have…

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China’s blockbuster The Wandering Earth is rich, gorgeous, and goofy


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We’re living through a fascinating era of rapid change for the blockbuster movie model. America producers, eager to get their $200 million movies into the lucrative Chinese market, are increasingly looking for Chinese production partners, shooting in Chinese locations, and adding China-friendly characters and plotlines to American movies, even including extra scenes just for the Chinese cuts of films. But simultaneously, China and other countries are moving toward the blockbuster model themselves, creating homegrown films that don’t need to involve American partners at all.

And just as American films attempt to find paydays in foreign markets, foreign blockbusters are coming to America. The Wandering Earth, described as China’s first…

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Warner Bros. is planning an Aquaman horror spin-off set in The Trench


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According to a Hollywood Reporter exclusive, Warner Bros. is making plans for a spin-off to its billion-dollar hit Aquamanin the form of a modestly budgeted horror movie with none of the original main cast involved. The film, set around the underwater kingdom known as The Trench, would be produced by Aquaman’s director, James Wan, and its co-producer, Peter Safran, who has a long production history on horror films like The Conjuring and many of its spin-offs.

Details are limited, but The Hollywood Reporter says Warner Bros. has commissioned a screenplay from Noah Gardner and Aidan Fitzgerald, two former employees of J.J. Abrams’ Bad Robot production company.

While the immediate description of “an Aquaman movie without Jason Momoa,…

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The Lego Movie 2 builds a whole new layer on the first film’s foundation


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Netflix’s Velvet Buzzsaw feels like Robert Altman’s Final Destination


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Welcome to Cheat Sheet, our brief breakdown-style reviews of festival films, VR previews, and other special event releases. This review comes from the 2019 Sundance Film Festival.

Horror films often pack their character rosters with terrible people, as a hedge against the audience feeling too much empathy as those characters get bumped off one by one. Viewers might find horror a little less cathartic and a little more depressing if they actually liked every eviscerated victim on-screen, and were fruitlessly rooting for them, then watching them ignominiously lose their lives. So in horror movies with any significant body count (unlike, something like Get Out or The Visit, which focus on one or two desperate, sympathetic protagonists),…

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Inside the larps that let human players experience AI life


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     Game designers are using artificial intelligence to explore everything from racial discrimination to cathartic emotion

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Hail Satan? puts the fun in Satanic fundamentalism


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Welcome to Cheat Sheet, our brief breakdown-style reviews of festival films, VR previews, and other special event releases. This review comes from the 2019 Sundance Film Festival.

In 2013, an organization billing itself as The Satanic Temple made a minor news splash when it mounted a press conference at the Florida State Capitol to praise Governor Rick Scott for signing a bill to permit student-led “inspirational messages” at school events. The group issued a statement in support of freedom of religion, saying that the bill “has reaffirmed our American freedom to practice our faith openly, allowing our Satanic children the freedom to pray in school.” It was a puckish take on a thinly disguised, widely unpopular attempt to return religion…

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The Inventor examines the $9 billion Theranos scandal, and blames Silicon Valley


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Welcome to Cheat Sheet, our brief breakdown-style reviews of festival films, VR previews, and other special event releases. This review comes from the 2019 Sundance Film Festival.

Alex Gibney’s documentary The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley starts with a compelling, startling hook: an opening tease about a private tech startup launched by a 19-year-old, once valued at $9 billion, and now worth absolutely nothing. Theranos was a health-care company built around a device called the Edison, a desktop-printer-sized blood tester that purported to quickly perform hundreds of scans on a micro-dose of blood. Founder Elizabeth Holmes was once widely celebrated by magazines like Forbes and Fortune, and her youth, her startling looks,…

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‘Maybe at this point I equate femaleness with being radical’: Karyn Kusama on Destroyer


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Amid all the cultural debates about women’s struggles to be heard in Hollywood, over everything from onscreen representation to sexual abuse to open gender discrimination, Karyn Kusama’s name is one of the most visible, both because of her struggles in the industry, and because she’s so clearly managed to fight past them. After her breakout movie Girlfight — the muscular, uncompromising boxing movie that launched Michelle Rodriguez’s film career — Kusama fought for work and for recognition. Her second film, 2005’s Aeon Flux, was disastrously recut after a regime change at Paramount took control away from her and tried to repurpose her footage into a more conventional action film. Her 2009 dark horror-comedy Jennifer’s Body, written by…

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The Reddit detectives are hard at work decoding Black Mirror: Bandersnatch


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Early in the morning on Friday, December 28th, Netflix slipped its viewers a late Christmas present: a new episode of Charlie Brooker’s technological-dystopia anthology series Black Mirror, in the form of an interactive movie called Bandersnatch. Its arrival didn’t entirely come as a secret — as far back as October, there were rumors it was on the way — but Netflix has been secretive about the storyline and the scope of the project. Just as Netflix seems to be experimenting with high-profile ad campaigns and wide-scale theatrical releases for award-courting movies like Roma, it’s also experimenting with releasing films like Tau or The Cloverfield Project with little to no advance notice, apparently to test what its subscribers will watch…

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She-Ra’s showrunner on villains, heroes, and the show’s controversial design


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Noelle Stevenson has had a whirlwind career, and like so many other young artists these days, it started online. In 2012, while still a student in art school, she started Nimona, a goofy webcomic about medieval knights, mad science, and a hero-villain duo whose picture book rivalry was complicated by the introduction of a shape-changing teenager with a taste for havoc. Three years later, Nimona was a complete story, a dark, tragic fantasy published by HarperCollins that had a vocal and enthusiastic online fandom. Stevenson had graduated from college, interned at the comics company Boom! Studios Comics, co-created the ongoing Lumberjanes comic series, then moved into television writing, most notably on Craig McCracken’s animated series W…

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Even for the Harry Potter hardcore, Crimes of Grindelwald is one convoluted movie


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Warning: spoilers ahead for the 2016 film Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.

Even in their earliest, most child-friendly days, J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books were never particularly simplistic. From the beginning, they introduced a crowded cast and a busy, messy world. And while her characters often fell into basic stereotypes or seemed more like story pegs and protagonist accessories than like people, there were certainly a lot of them. It was an early hint that as she kept expanding the world, she was going to go deep into its history and explore how the connections between people in the past affected the series’s present and future.

The latest film set in Rowling’s Potterverse — Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald,…

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MoviePass is staffed by dogs now, apparently


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It’s been a grim year for MoviePass, the endlessly embattled movie subscription service. The company, which built a base of reportedly more than 3 million subscribers with a deal that let users watch a movie a day in theaters for under $10 a month, has been losing money at a prodigious rate. Over the course of 2018, it repeatedly retooled its basic subscription, forced annual subscribers onto a monthly plan, and dealt with plummeting stock prices after repeated reports that it was out of funds.

Most recently, parent company Helios and Matheson — which is facing a class-action lawsuit from its shareholders and a fraud investigationspun MoviePass off into a separate company, in an apparent attempt to dissociate itself from the toxic…

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Steven Yeun on Burning, The Walking Dead, and changing roles for Asian-Americans


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For fans of The Walking Dead, Steven Yeun is a familiar face — he played fan-favorite character Glenn Rhee over the course of six years and seven seasons of the show, in the process earning a fandom and rapidly kickstarting a widely varying acting career. Asian-American actors often struggle to find roles that don’t fall into simple, predictable stereotypes, but Yeun has kept things complicated, playing a conflicted animal-rights activist in Bong Joon-ho’s Netflix weird fable Okja, a confident union agitator in Boots Riley’s Sorry to Bother You, and lone-wolf pilot Keith in the animated series Voltron: Legendary Defender.

Yeun’s latest film, Burning, adapts the 1992 Haruki Murakami story “Barn Burning,” about an awkward Japanese outsider…

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